Hinduism (including Brahamanism has more adherents than any other religion in India. Their followers number 83% of the country’s population. Hinduism is more than just a religion. It is a way of life, including social order, law, science, literature and art.
Incorporated within Hinduism is the body of Indo-Aryan thought and ritual which has a tradition dating from sometime between 2,000 BO, and 1,000 BC, stemming from the ancient religious books known as the Vedas but altered and expanded in post-Vedic times as the Aryan invaders blended with the non-Aryan indigenous Indians.
This constitute din a way the higher religion called Brahmanism. It was contrasted with a mass of belief. It varies from country. The latter is a lower religion or popular Hinduism. Hinduism countenances a wide range of religious beliefs. It varies from a have animism to polytheism, monotheism, and even a rigorous sophisticated intellectual monism.
It has no formal creed, no standardized cult-practice, and no controlling ecclesiastical organisation. Its adherents usually ascribe authority to the vedas, refer to that ancient body of texts less frequently than to later literature.
To Hindu devotees of pure monism, all phenomenal existence is only relatively real. Others accept simpler and more easily grasped concepts, ideas of deity also vary. On medium and high intellectual leels, Hindus usually adhere to sects or cults devoted either to the feat gods Shiva and Vishnu, of to lesser deities associated with them.
Vishnu may be worshipped in his incarnations (avatara). Shiva is often worshipped for his phallic symbol (Iinga), with which may be associated the female sex symbol (yoni) as the emblem of his wife Parvati. A variation of Hinduism is the adoration of the female principle or power called Shakti represented as a goddess and creative and effective energy in the universe.
On the highest intellectual level a Hindu seeks the one reality whether conceived impersonally as the neuter Brahman or theistically as Shiva or Vishnu. Once he succeeds he may continue to live in this world but without emotional attachment to it. He has passed beyond sorrow or joy, pain and pleasure, and good and evil.
Hinduism accretion faith the joint doctrine of rebirth and Karma. Every living being at the time of death is reborn in a different form either higher or lower, whether as a human being or animal, a heaven being, or a hell dweller, and from that state he will be reborn, and so on endlessly.
The precise form of rebirths determined by the balancing of the being’s deeds, good and evil in previous existences. Escape from the cycle constitutes salvation, a state of perfect blissful consciousness, which may be obtained by acquiring perfect knowledge or performing one’s duty perfectly or through the grace of the supreme deity won by pure devotion (bhakti). In theory salvation is the goal of every human being, but is so condition in the next existence.
The remains of the early Indus civilization in prehistoric times specially of the Harappa period (about 2500-1800 BC),’ are after presumptive worship of a god with some characteristics of Shiva, or the cult of Great Mother, or Earth Goddess, and of phallic worship. Certain trees are believed to be sacred including the Pipal.
On some seals there are trees associated with female figures that may represent fertility deities. The religious beliefs and practice of the Indo Aryans, who are believed to have entered India in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, are recorded in the body of texts known as veda meaning knowledge, the earliest book of India is Rigveda Book of Knowledge of Hymns, composed by sages for use in the religious.
The other three books are Yajur Veda, which preserves the arose formulas used in the Vedic sacrificial ritual; and the Atharva Veda, which provides material for private religious use.
The Veda looks upon the universe in dualistic terms of good and evil. The gods which are the anthropomorphic personification of natural forces or phenomena are benevolent figures of darkness. Indra leads the goods against the demons and slays their leader Rita, but the war between the good and evil never ends. The gods enforce a system of order, known as the Rita (Sanskrita) on earth, in the atmosphere and in the heaven.
Demons living in a place of darkness and chaos, oppose the rita a seek to undermine it to obstruct the will of the gods and to destroy men. The gods are strengthened in this warfare by the sacrificial ritual which men celebrate through the Brahman priesthood.
In return for this oral support the gods grant favours to men progeny health long life wealth victory over mortal enemies. Hence great importance is attached to this ritual; it becomes ever more complicated as time passes and is eventually esteemed as more potent than the gods themselves, who are subject to its power.
The increasing complexity of the ritual and the increasing importance of the Brahmans is mentioned in texts called Brahmans that are appendages to the Vedas. Late in the Rig Vedic period doubt was expressed about the accepted view of cosmogony and the supremacy of the gods even the ritual of sacrifice was subjected to skepticism.
New explanations were offered some monotheistic in character, and a neuter monistic first principle was posited. These philosophically speculative attempts led to series of texts called Upanishads which had a remarkably stimulatating effect upon the development of Indian thought. The Upanishads investigated the nature of both the universe and the human phyche or soul.
The monistic identification of the human soul atman and the universal soul or essence (brahman) was the supreme achievement of those texts though a dualistic view appeared in them affirming the reality of both soul (purusa) and matter (prakriti).
The Upanishads were the first texts to develop the doctrine of rebirth and retribution for one’s deeds (karma) in succeeding existence. They also speak of yoga as an aid to meditation.
In the period of approximately 1,000 years from the time of the older Upanishads, or roughly from about 500 BC to 500 AD six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy, which provide the intellectual basis forBrahamanical Hinduism, were evolved and gained their classical form.
They are (1) Purva-or Karma Mimamsa, “discussion of the first or practical part of the Vedic’ religion”; (2) Uttara-Mimamsa, “discussion of the latter part of the Vedic religion” (the Vedanta); (3) Nyaya, “logical method”: (4) Vaisesika, “differentiation” the philosophy of atomism; (5) Samkhya, “reason of enumeration, an analysis of natura”, arid (6) Youga, the exposition of the technique of meditation.
In the nineteenth century, Hindu religious reform movements arose party from the impact of western ideas upon Hinduism. Foremost among these was the Brahmo Samaj founded by Ram Mohan Roy. It was a theistic Cult, non idolatrous favouring social service and reform.
Another important 19th century reform movement was the Arya Samaj, founded by a Brahmin named Dayanand Saraswati, who aimed to restore the religion and social institutions of the Vedas, to protect cows and to restore India’s glorious past.